SC: Muslim Code Governs Marital Relations of Muslim Couples

September 12, 2019

“The Muslim Code continues to govern the marital relations of Muslim spouses who first wed under Muslim law rites and decided to wed again under civil law rites.”

Thus held the Supreme Court as it denied for lack of merit the petition  of a Muslim wife who had questioned the earlier grant of divorce by Talaq by the 8th Shari’a Circuit Court (SCC) of Tacurong City, which was subsequently affirmed by the 5th Shari’a District Court (SDC) of Cotabato City.

In an 11-page resolution, the Court’s First Division held that it saw “no reason to deviate from the rulings of the SCC and the SDC finding the report to be valid.” Thus, it affirmed the orders dated November 2, 2011 and January 9, 2012 of the 5th SDC of Cotabato City, which had dismissed petitioner Rohaina Sumagka’s appeal and affirmed the Decree of Divorce, as well as her subsequent motion for reconsideration.

Rohaina and Abdulgani Sumagka, both Muslims, married in accordance with Muslim law at Tinagacan, General Santos City on July 18, 1998. On February 4, 2004, they renewed their marriage vows under civil rites before the then Municipal Mayor of Alabel, Sarangani Province. However, their marriage turned sour when Abdulgani became a policeman in 2006 and was frequently assigned to different posts. As the couple often quarreled because of Rohaina’s jealousies and suspicions, Abdulgani filed a Petition for Divorce by Talaq in the SCC based on Art. 46 of PD 1083, or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines (Muslim Code). Article 46 states that “A divorce by talaq may be affected by the husband in a single repudiation of his wife during her non-menstrual period (tuhr) within which he has totally abstained from carnal relation with her. Any number of repudiations made during one tuhr shall constitute only one repudiation and shall become irrevocable after the expiration of the prescribed ’idda.”

The SCC, asserting its jurisdiction over the petition, constituted the Agama Arbitration Council (Agama Council), which then submitted a report stating, among others, that the “spouses Abdulgani Sumagka and Rohaina Mamalompong with the consent of their representatives agreed for their Divorce.” On March 14, 2011, the SCC granted Abdulgani’s petition and declared the divorce by Talaq in accordance with the provisions of the Muslim Code.

Rohaina appealed the SCC’s ruling to the SDC, asserting that civil law governs her marriage with Abdulgani. She also contended that the Agama Council’s report was invalid as it was not signed personally by one of its members, Limbong Mamalompong. In the assailed November 2, 2011 ruling, the SDC ruled that the law on marriage that will govern parties who are both Muslims is the Muslim Code and that SCC has exclusive original jurisdiction over the case. As regards the issue of authentication of the Agama Council’s report, the SC held that the non-signing was satisfactorily explained by the SCC when it stated that the said council member actively participated in the arbitration hearings but failed to return in the afternoon session for the mechanical signing of the report. Furthermore, it held that Limbong did not question the contents of the report and that majority of the Agama Council’s members signed the report.

The High Court noted that it was “undisputed that Rohaina and Abdulgani are Muslims whose marriage was first celebrated under Muslim rites.” It held that the subsequent civil law marriage did not supersede their previous marriage and that the Muslim Code under which their first marriage was celebrated still applies.

“We agree with the SCC and SDC that the first marriage of Rohaina and Abdulgani is the validating rite while the second marriage is merely ceremonial….Considering that the Muslim Code governs the marriage of Rohaina and Abdulgani, the latter may legally avail of divorce by Talaq under the Code,” held the Court.

Likewise, it reiterated that “[f]actual findings of the trial court are accorded high respect and are generally not disturbed by the appellate courts, unless found to be clearly arbitrary or baseless.”

(G.R. No. 200697, Sumagka v. Sumagka, June 10, 2019)

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